Speaking to Neue Online Casinos, former Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham and England defender Glen Johnson previews the Conference League final.
How do you think the Conference League final between West Ham and Fiorentina?
GJ: 2-1 West Ham. In finals, anything can happen, but I think they will win the game. It won’t be easy. The game will start off cagey, and it may take until the first 20 minutes for them to find their feet. If they don’t concede early, I would like to think that they can control the game.
David Moyes will definitely be there next season if West Ham win. Even if they don’t win the game, I think he’s earned enough respect to have a conversation about it. Obviously he played a key role in getting them into a difficult situation, but he also played a big role in getting them out of it. If he walks off with a trophy and still in the Premier League, the fans would call it a successful season. If they lose though, I think he may still be fine.
If he does win it, it would be a remarkable achievement due to how bad they were in the Premier League. They were nowhere near their high standards, but that will be forgotten if they win this game. He has the chance to become a big part of West Ham’s history.
Where do you think Declan Rice will play at the start of the season?
GJ: I think Declan Rice will play for either Chelsea or Arsenal next season. I can see why Bayern Munich want him but I can’t see him going there. He’s a London boy and he’ll want to stay at home. The other big clubs will still be looking at Jude Bellingham, so I think he’ll end up at Chelsea or Arsenal.
Rice is irreplaceable. West Ham will have to get as much money as they can, sign four or five players who between them can fill the void and improve the team. They won’t be able to sign another Declan Rice though.
They can try to get over £100million for him, or even £110million with the way the market is at the moment.
Would James Ward-Prowse be a good fit to replace Rice at West Ham?
GJ: James Ward-Prowse would be a good option, but he is not a replacement for Rice. They are totally different players. Ward-Prowse would not set the world alight, but as a squad player and a set piece player, you would take him all day.
What would be the first item on your to-do list if you were Mauricio Pochettino?
GJ: Mauricio Pochettino will have to steady the ship at Chelsea. He’s walking into a good squad, however he’ll have to work out what he is working with because they signed a lot of players that he did not sign. It will be about working out which players fit into his style of play and offloading those who don’t. He will then need to bring in a few players who he knows will fit his system. He’s a proven good manager walking into a good dressing room. He will just have a lot of work to do in terms of working out what he needs and what he doesn’t.
Where do you think will be a realistic target for Chelsea to finish next season?
GJ: I think Chelsea will need to be battling for the top four for as long as possible, although they would probably take sixth. For a club of that size, finishing outside of the top four is normally a disaster, but last season they spent longer in the bottom half than the top. If they can compete for as long as possible and then come sixth, I reckon they would take it.
Do you think Pochettino will be afforded time, unlike Graham Potter?
GJ: Unlike Graham Potter, I think Pochettino will be given time. The nature of his name will demand time. He’s a big character, and would have made it clear in negotiations that he needed time. There will be no point in him going in with a long term plan if they then sack him after a couple of months. There are not many managers who will get these Chelsea players doing what they want in the first few months. I think they would have learnt from sacking Potter, and will therefore give Pochettino time.
Chelsea have reportedly pulled out of signing Manuel Ugarte due to not wanting to match Sporting’s value, does this show that Todd Boehly has a clearer transfer strategy now?
GJ: I hope that this does show a clearer strategy from Todd Boehly. He can’t always pay what people want and the selling club will always want the most amount of money while the buying club tries to sort out a deal. I hope this shows that Boehly has woken up and won’t just pay what clubs want, and instead only pays what they value the player at. They’ll waste money if they keep paying what club’s want for certain players, and hopefully it shows that they have learnt from a few previous transfer fees. They need their own purchase strategy and stick to it.
Would it be a mistake for Chelsea to let Kovacic join Manchester City?
GJ: It would be a big mistake if Chelsea let Mateo Kovacic go to Man City. He’s a big player for Chelsea and he will be hard to replace. I can see why City want him, and if he is good enough for City then he is certainly good enough for Chelsea. They need to do what they can to keep him.
Kai Havertz has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, how important is it for Chelsea to keep hold of him?
GJ: Kai Havertz is not as important as Kovacic, and they can let go of him. They will get a decent value for him. He’s scored big goals in big finals, but he is not that much of a goal threat. He’s a luxury player that Chelsea could do without at the moment.
Andre Onana from Inter has been identified as a potential target for next season. What do you make of this move?
GJ: Onana is a good goalkeeper, but Chelsea should not be looking for one at the moment. They spent loads of money on Kepa and Mendy who are both good players. They just need to work out who their number one keeper is, sell the other one and then bring in a number 2. They don’t need to sign another number one. If Mendy or Kepa find form, you have a top player on your hands, so I don’t think they need a keeper.
Is there a player or position you believe that Chelsea should prioritise this summer?
GJ: Chelsea really need a striker. They’ve signed some wingers which will need time, but they also have a good side. They just need a striker to finish things off. It will be difficult to pick out a name because every team will want a good striker. Chelsea may struggle to get a top striker at the moment, as they will want to go to a side that are winning things at the moment. They will need to be shrewd.
I think they should look at Ivan Toney. Even though he is banned, he is proven in the Premier League. He will not be a bad player when he comes back, and the deal might be cheaper because Brentford may want to sell him. I certainly do not think it would be the worst deal in the world.
Where do you see Frank Lampard going from here?
GJ: Frank Lampard will have to prove himself as a manager again. It did not work at Everton, and it definitely did not work at Chelsea. If he wants to keep managing, he will have to take a step back, take a less glamorous job and show that what he does can work. He’s a top guy and his players will like him. It is a shock for me that it has not worked for him. He should take a step back so he can bounce back, and before you know it he will be back in the Premier League. He will have to take a step back first though.
You played against Karim Benzema during your time at Liverpool (he scored twice in a 3-0 win), where does he rank in terms of the best strikers you came up against in your career?
GJ: Benzema is definitely up there in terms of the best goalscorers I played against. He is not the sort of player who will petrify you 1v1, but he always finds the best positions with his unreal movement. He’ll find half a yard, and the ball will always find him. He’s really clever, and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. The amount of goals that he has scored at Madrid and France shows that he is a world class player. Because he is not as glamorous on the eye, he does not get the credit that he deserves. He reminds me of Giroud a lot. Obviously Benzema is better than Giroud, but they are both top class. Neither get the credit they deserve because they are not as glamorous to watch.
Do you think Real Madrid would be the best destination for Kane should he leave Tottenham this summer?
GJ: Kane would be a fantastic replacement. Kane is a goal machine and he would tear it up at Madrid. He would not have to do half of the stuff that he does at Tottenham because he won’t have to drop back as much to play people through. Madrid won’t want him to do that, so while he will touch the ball a lot less, he’ll score a hell of a lot more goals.
After Trent’s excellent performances in a more advanced role this season, it’s clear that the Reds need a new right-back. Who should they go all-out for this summer?
GJ: Trent Alexander Arnold’s long term position is not higher up the pitch. I think it’s a great asset to use against weaker teams, but he should remain at right-back. He has all the attributes to play there, even though he did not perform as well there last season. He is still a good player and I wouldn’t move him though. I can’t see him playing higher up working against the top teams though. I don’t think Liverpool should consider buying a right back to replace him.
Franck Kessie has been linked with a move to Liverpool. Would signing him and Alexis Mac Allister be enough for Liverpool to compete with the likes of Man City and Arsenal again?
GJ: I really like Mac Allister, although I did not see him play much before the World Cup. He has a football brain, technically is very good and has performed at the highest level. He has the characteristics to suit Liverpool as well. I think he will do well and settle in quickly.
Kessie is a really good player and a good ball winning midfielder. One or two players will not help them compete though and they need to find their identity again. Arsenal and Man City are still miles clear of them. They both have good squads, good style of play and have happy players as well. Liverpool need to go back to their foundations, build from there and then they will be able to compete.
Sadio Mane is set to leave Bayern Munich this summer with Newcastle reportedly interested. Should Jurgen Klopp try to tempt the former Red back to Anfield?
GJ: Klopp should not look at Mane again. He is a fantastic player, but he would be coming back to a completely different team to the one that he left. He was great for Liverpool at the time, but it does not mean that he would be great for them now. I don’t think they should go for him.
For Newcastle though, it would be huge. Being in the Champions League will help them attract even better players, and Mane would be an amazing signing. They need to make the most of it this year as if they do not finish in the top 4 next year, they will still have Champions League quality players with them. That will therefore help them bounce back.
What impact do you think Eberechi Eze can have for England?
GJ: He can be an explosive player for England. He’s got pace, power and he’s skilfull. I think he needs to do it more often though, as when you have those attributes, he needs to get on the ball and drive at other teams every time he gets it. He has the ability to petrify defenders. I feel sometimes he waits for the ball to come to him too much but if he changes that, he could easily knock on the door for a starting place.
Jude Bellingham may miss England’s games as he faces surgery on his knee. How important is his fitness to England’s chances of success?
GJ: I hope his surgery is nothing major but it is part of the game. He has played a lot of games for his age. England will survive these next few games regardless of whether Bellingham is fit, but as long as he is back for the competitive games then England will be fine.
Would you relish the chance to play for England at the end of a season outside a tournament or would you rather be off on your holiday now?
GJ: It is always a privilege to play for your country. However, after a long season with a World Cup in the middle, to have some friendlies now does not make sense to me. If it was a tournament, everyone would be buzzing for it, but due to these friendlies, the players won’t get much time off before pre-season either.